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Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’S Standards
particularly vulnerable to the effects of fluoride. The first category includes people who consume much larger volumes of water than assumed by EPA, such as athletes and outdoor workers, who consume large volumes of water to replace fluids lost because of strenuous activity, and people with medical conditions that cause them to consume excessive amounts of water (e.g., diabetes insipidus). Individuals who consume well over 2 L of water per day will accumulate more fluoride and reach critical bone concentrations before the average water drinker exposed to the same concentration of fluoride in drinking water. In Chapter 2, it was estimated that for high-water-intake individuals, drinking water would contribute 92% to 98% of the exposure to fluoride at 4 mg/L and 86% to 96% at 2 mg/L. Another consideration is individuals who are exposed to other significant sources of fluoride, such as occupational, industrial, and therapeutic sources.
There are also environmental, metabolic, and disease conditions that cause more fluoride to be retained in the body. For example, fluoride retention might be affected by environments or conditions that chronically affect urinary pH, including diet, drugs, altitude, and certain diseases (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) (reviewed by Whitford 1996). It is also affected by renal function, because renal excretion is the primary route of fluoride elimination. Age and health status can affect renal excretion. Individuals with renal disease are of particular concern because their ability to excrete fluoride can be seriously inhibited, causing greater uptake of fluoride into their bones. However, the available data are insufficient to provide quantitative estimates of the differences between healthy individuals and people with renal disease.
Another category of individuals in need of special consideration includes those who are particularly susceptible or vulnerable to the effects of fluoride. For example, children are vulnerable for developing enamel fluorosis, because the condition occurs only when there is exposure while teeth are being formed (the pre-eruption stages). Thus, children up to the age of 8 are the susceptible subpopulation of concern for that end point. The elderly are another population of concern because of their long-term accumulation of fluoride into their bones. There are also medical conditions that can make people more susceptible to the effects of fluoride.
Relative Source Contribution
At the time the MCLG was established for fluoride, a reference dose was not available and the MCLG was calculated directly from available data rather than as an apportioned part of the reference dose. In Chapter 2, the committee shows that at 4 mg/L, drinking water is the primary contributor to total fluoride exposure, ranging from 72% to 94% for average-water-intake individuals and from 92% to 98% for high-water-intake individuals.